Some Musical Notes - Richard Place

Richard Place is a tenor, currently taking a backseat from singing with the Royston Choral Society. While resting, fellow RCS tenor Chris Lee had a very enjoyable chat with him and learnt lots about Richard’s musical connections.

We started with Richard’s early introduction to choral music. “Church music is in the blood – being a chorister at six or seven was probably my first introduction to it, then I moved to Chichester aged nine and sung in the choir there for over four years.” Richard’s father was a parson so, after being talent-spotted (my words, not his) by the organist at Manchester Cathedral, Richard says he really had little choice other than to go to a choir school. From then on Richard was immersed in the choir, singing nine services a week.

“It was life” he says, but this didn’t mean he enjoyed it all. “One of our pet hates was the music of Herbert Howells [English composer 1892 – 1983]. As small boys we didn’t like him at all, but that changed when I moved on to sing as a tenor in Bradford Cathedral and I thought he was the bee’s knees, and he still is, in many ways.”

Richards thinks he first discovered Gilbert and Sullivan with a trip to see The Mikado. “I was probably too young” he says “I couldn’t work out what was going on. I was told there would be acting, but we sat through a long piece of music at the start and the curtain stayed down! Despite this early introduction, he’s never combined music and drama.

When asked about his favourite composer, Richard it quick off the mark “Vaughan Williams. There are a couple of pieces that have stayed with me all the time, including ‘Valiant for Truth’ which we learnt for the memorial service for King George VI … If you come to my funeral, that’s what you’ll hear!”

I invite Richard to suggest a piece to brighten up someone’s day (or his own!) He ponders for a while before suggesting “quite a big work” by English composer Gerald Finzi – ‘Intimations of Immortality’ setting a Wordsworth poem to music. He adds “If Royston Choral Society ever did that, I’d be extremely happy!”

In concluding our chat, Richard shares a lovely story about his godfather, vicar of a country parish in the Yorkshire Dales… “One summer he was taking evensong - dodging from his stall, to the lectern, to the pulpit, to the organ. Someone came up to him after the service and asked ‘Could you do with some help vicar?’ That ‘someone’ was Sir William McKie – organist at Westminster Abbey, who was happy to play the organ for the rest of his visit to the Dales!

Thank you Richard